Innovative uses of GIS

Any organisation that makes use of spatial data can use GIS software to provide innovative visualisations and feedback about change over time. Part of UBER’s phenomenal rise to international success was due, in no small part, to their innovative application of GIS.

Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing technology are used in a wide range of innovative and surprising ways. Here are some novel applications, some of which have been gleaned from

  • Predicting retail earnings and market share by counting cars in a parking lot
  • Saving money and time with precision farming
  • Reducing traffic jams using change detection
  • Putting illegal boat dumping under the microscope
  • Optimising solar power energy output with global horizontal irradience
  • Detective work for investigating fraudulent crop insurance claims
  • Identifying archaeological sites, mapping excavations and determining settlement patterns
  • Forecasting weather to warn about environmental disasters
  • Investigating and assessing rural roads using UAVs
  • Rendering real-world topography and landscapes in computer games
  • Forecasting the spread of disease
  • Micro-surgery (because spatial information is important at any scale)

While remote sensing provides a powerful tool for data collection, GIS can be used to answer questions like: Where could we set up customer service centres or advertising banners for maximum effect? How have heritage sites and the natural environment been effected by mining operations? Where would be the best location for a new communications network tower? Where are the hijacking hot spots located and how can we organise civil protection resources to combat these crimes more efficiently? Where do we build our next McDonalds? (yes McDonalds use GIS for this purpose). For Elon Musk: where would be the best locations to establish a self-sustaining colony on Mars?

In the words of ESRI’s Jack Dangermond: “The application of GIS is limited only by the imaginations of those who use it.”

Typical areas of use include, but are not limited to:

  • Government – Land Administration, Public Works, Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC), Economic Development, Elections, Urban and Regional Planning.
  • Business – Insurance, Retail, Banking, Manufacturing, Real Estate, Media & entertainment, Marketing.
  • Communications and Utilities – Electric, Gas, Pipelines, Telecommunications, Water/Wastewater.
  • Natural Resources – Environmental Management, Climate Change, Forestry, Mining, Water Resources, Conservation, Agriculture.
  • Additional Areas – Development Aid, Health & Social Services, Transportation, Public Safety, Education